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Widower’s Search For Wife’s Ex-Work Colleagues After Asbestos Death

Husband Continues Battle For Justice


The widower of an Aston University office worker, who died from an aggressive asbestos related cancer, is hoping her former work mates may have important information which will help in his search for justice.

Valerie White (52) from Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield, died on 11 October 2009 from the asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma. Mrs White first began to suffer from symptoms in 2001 when she started to suffer from a series of chest infections which led to breathing problems. She was diagnosed with asthma in 2002/03 and given inhalers.

Valerie was diagnosed in October 2007 with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the chest lining caused by exposure to lethal asbestos fibres. She underwent both radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, before returning to work in October 2008. However, just one year later she lost her battle against the disease.

Following the asbestos cancer diagnosis, her husband Christopher White has pledged to continue the fight for justice which she began shortly before her untimely death and is hoping that former workmates may be able to provide additional information to establish how she came into contact with lethal asbestos fibres.

Mrs White worked as a secretary in the Biological Sciences Department at The University of Aston between 1974 and 1984. This department was based in the main building on the third floor. During this time Valerie had to visit the laboratories on a daily basis. The laboratories included equipment including Bunsen burner mats and gloves which back in the 1970s were routinely made from asbestos.

It is also believed that reconstruction work which was ongoing during the period Valerie worked at the University, may have disturbed asbestos known to be within the fabric of the building.

Mr White commented: “Valerie’s illness came as a huge shock to us. Despite the diagnosis she was determined to carry on and fight the illness every step of the way. It was devastating to watch Valerie’s health slowly deteriorate, knowing that ultimately there was nothing we could do to cure her.”

Kim Barrett, a workplace illness expert with the Birmingham Office of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represents Mr White, said: “Sadly, Valerie is one of a growing number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma whose jobs are not usually associated with heavy exposure to asbestos. Hospital staff and teachers who were exposed to relatively low levels of asbestos 20 or 30 years ago and even family members who breathed in asbestos dust brought home on their loved one’s work clothes, are now being given the shocking diagnosis that they have an asbestos related illness.

“We have dealt with a previous case against The University of Aston regarding exposure to asbestos, but in order to obtain justice for her family, I need to hear from anyone who worked with Valerie and can provide information regarding any building work that went on at The University of Aston in and around the Biological Sciences Department based on the third floor of the main building between 1974 and 1984.

Anyone able to help can contact Kim Barrett at Irwin Mitchell on 0121 214 5407 or kim.barrett@irwinmitchell.com